Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Flavors Abound!

I can't say this enough.  I love, love, love Fall!  It's really my favorite season for produce and for cooking and baking.  In the summer I never want to be in the kitchen, especially when it's 90 degrees and I have a sad air conditioner that sucks up energy.  But now that Fall is here, there's a crisp coolness in the air and delicious vegetables to be had, which just says to me, "time to cook!"  Since the weather has taken a turn, I have definitely been slacking in my running and outdoor activities, and I have taken refuge in my kitchen.  (That should make my marathon next weekend rather interesting...)  Anyway, I went a little nuts last weekend with the cooking.  Now that I'm actually in town on the weekends, I have time to cook my meals for the week again!  As always, I left the Farmer's Market with far too many vegetables.  Everything just looks so good!  I can't help myself!  My friends and boyfriend definitely aren't complaining by any means.  :-)  I may be going a little overboard with the Butternut Squash, but I plan on making some fun things with that in the near future, so keep a lookout.  Although, just plain roasted squash is still my absolute favorite!

Soups up!  So my go-to Fall meals are always soups.  I love them!  They're savory, deliciously warming, and absolutely easy to make.  Win, win and win!  The broccoli and potatoes are so beautiful right now, so you must make this soup: Broccoli Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs.  Simple flavors team up to provide a light, but filling soup.  If you like your soups chunky (I do) then you can just blend half of it, or make a soup more reminiscent of cream of broccoli by blending the whole thing.  Whatever toots your horn!  I think this soup will always be one of my favorites, because it was the first soup I ever made.  Not only the first soup as a vegan, but the first soup EVER!  (I'm not counting the soups, that you get from a can or a box...come on now!)  I was so proud of myself when I pulled it off.  The only thing is the the original recipe calls for fresh mint, and I say OMIT!  Yuck!  I hated the mint in there.  Just the dill is perfect.  This recipe is taken from Veganomicon by Isa and Terry.

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (I usually use 1T)
1 medium-size onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
3 cloves garlic (double it!)
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups vegetable stock, or 4 cups veggie stock plus 2 cups water
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (I don't peel mine, you're prerogative)
4 cups chopped broccoli, including the stalks: chop them into thin slices, and the tops into small florets
1/4 cup fresh dill

Heat a soup pot over medium heat.  Saute the onion in the live oil for 5-7 minutes, until softened.  Add the garlic, tarragon, black pepper, and salt, and cook for 1 more minute.  Pour in the vegetable stock and add the potatoes.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the broccoli and cook for 15 more minutes.

Use an immersion blender to blend about one-third of the soup.  Transfer back to the soup.  Add the fresh dill and let the soup sit for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld.  Serve!

I paired this soup with some Pumpkin Cheddar Biscuits, which are to die for!!  I knew the recipe sounded good when I opened up my VegNews this last month, but they are even better!  They are a perfect pairing for sopping up soups or gravies.  I will definitely be making these for any future holiday events, or just for whatever!  They were a hit at the Packer party I went to yesterday, for sure!

Makes 8 large or 16 small biscuits

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy milk
1 cup flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese
5 tablespoons vegan margarine
3/4 canned pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine apple cider vinegar and soy milk.  Set aside and allow the mixture to curdle.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, pastry flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir in cheese, coating shreds with flour so that they don't clump together.  Add margarine, and use a pastry cutter to break up the margarine and cheese shreds until course crumbs form.

To soy milk mixture, add pumpkin and whisk until well combined.  Pour mixture into dry ingredients.  Use a spoon to mix until a dough forms, and then continue mixing with clean hands until just combined.  Do not overmix,

On a liberally floured surface, pat dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Using a biscuit cutter (about 3 inches in diameter) (or just the top of a juice glass, which is what I use), lightly press into the dough to cut out a circle, and then gently lift the cutter back up, without twisting.  Continue until all the dough has been cut into biscuits.

Carefully place the cut biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

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